I recently read an article by Christopher Elliot entitled What a Hit and Run Taught Me About Customer Service. It revolved around settling an accident claim involving a rental car, and he basically learned this particular company was not customer-centric. As a consumer, you must assume responsibility for every step of the resolution process. This got me thinking, “What is customer service? How does it differ from customer experience? More importantly, what is it not?” Finally, since you know we’re all about helping businesses protect and grow themselves, what does it all mean for you? First, let’s clear the air. Some will argue the difference between customer service and customer experience is simply a pedantic semantic discussion. To their credit, those folks likely always regarded customer service as surrounding the entire sales process. Yet for many, customer service is something that happens after the sale and once you become a customer. Therefore, this begs the question:
What is customer experience?
Wikipedia defines it this way:
Customer experience (CX) is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. From awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy. It can also be used to mean an individual experience over one transaction; the distinction is usually clear in context.
Beyond Philosophy goes a little further and gives this definition:
A customer experience is an interaction between an organization and a customer as perceived through a customer’s conscious and subconscious mind. It is a blend of an organization’s rational performance, the senses stimulated and the emotions evoked and intuitively measured against customer expectations across all moments of contact.
However, to keep things simple, we’ll use Harley Manning’s definition on the Forrester blog:
How customers perceive their interactions with your company. (emphasis added)
While the last is the most concise, the others provide additional insight into what Mr. Manning means when speaking of a customer’s perception of their interactions with you. Taken together, we get a more complete picture of what customer experience means. We also get a feel for what it is not. It is not:
- Simply what you do for a customer
- Simply what you say to a customer, and especially
- Something that only happens after you make a sale
While all of the above is important, they are not by themselves the fullness of customer experience. Let’s take a look at them individually and see why.
CX: Not Simply What You Do for a Customer
Treating a customer with respect and providing prompt service are essential for any business. Let’s assume you do all of the above to perfection. Isn’t that enough? Not if you’ve shot yourself in the foot before the customer walks through the door. If your advertising left a poor taste in their mouth for one reason or another, they’ve already formed an opinion of you. The good service you provide may or may not change that opinion. Of course, the more likely result of this scenario is that person never even comes to you in the first place. Additionally, you may think you’ve treated your customer in the best way possible. Yet what really matters is what they think about how you treated them. As you can imagine, sometimes the two are worlds apart. Closing the gap between your perception and your customer’s is the key to awesome CX.
CX: Not Simply What You Say to a Customer
Having the right words is important. Delivering those words in a way the customer accepts is an art, and is absolutely critical. In fact, the “wrong” word said in the right way often opens the path to a great customer experience. You may feel you’ve said all the right things, and perhaps you have. However, the way in which you said them may leave the customer (or prospect) slightly miffed. Let’s go one step further: You’ve said all the right things in the right way. You’re still just one part of the equation. If the prospect/customer doesn’t like your look, the neighborhood in which you’re located, the packaging, the advertising seen before arriving, while in the store, or after leaving, you can lose the sale. Remember, it’s about perception.
CX: Not Something That Only Happens After the Sale
This gets to the heart of the service vs. experience debate. Some typically see customer service as happening after the sale. After all, a customer service department typically only deals with after-sale support. Of course, good salespeople always considered what they did as providing good customer service. They didn’t subscribe to the after-sale philosophy. This is important because a person’s perception of you and your company forms long before you complete the sale. If you’re waiting until after the sale to influence that perception, you’re so far behind the 8-ball you might as well be playing a different game on another table!
How Does This Help Me?
From the above, it’s clear that a potential customer’s perception of you, your business, and your products or services forms long before you speak directly. The perisale (yep, I coined the term; if it catches on, I want kudos…and royalties) period starts from the moment a person becomes aware of your (you and/or your product/service) existence and continues long after they make a purchase. What can you do to ensure they have a great customer experience?
- First, identify your target market. The more specifically you define this individual or entity, the better you can tailor your efforts towards assuring they have a fantastic customer experience. Understand that pleasing your target may distance other sectors of the public. That’s okay. Your target is the meat and potatoes of your business. Everything else is gravy. While you can enjoy the former by itself, the latter alone makes for a poor meal.
- Next, get inside the head of your target. Think of the challenges they face and how you help address them.
- Determine the style of communication your target likes best and craft your marketing and face-to-face interactions accordingly.
- Ascertain the visual elements to which your target best responds and incorporate them into your advertising, décor, etc.
- Finally, figure out the best cycle for effective follow-up and style your after sale service with that in mind. How can you figure out all these different criteria?
You may have enough anecdotal data from previous sales to get an idea of these things. If not, consulting with a marketing professional helps to fill in the gaps. I know what you’re thinking: “Consult a marketing professional? Who has that kind of money?!” First, relax and breathe. Then consider that there’s a cost to hiring a consultant – and a cost to not hiring one. So weigh your options carefully. Thankfully, we can help drastically reduce the cost of access to such professionals. Give me a call for more details using the info below, or check out the Business Owner’s Plans link under the LegalShield menu above. Ensuring your prospects and customers have a fantastic customer experience is critical to your business. Unlike the rental car company mentioned at the outset, don’t leave the heavy lifting to your customers. Knowing what CX is, and just as importantly what it’s not, can help you provide them with a seamless, satisfying experience they’ll delight in and talk about positively with their friends. So work to improve the quality of the customer experience you provide and you’ll have more success and enjoy what you do all the more! How would you rate the current quality of your organization’s CX? In what areas can it improve? What one thing can you do this week to raise the CX level you provide? Post your Comments below.
- Can You Hear What I’m Saying? (kerwynhodge.wordpress.com)
- Engagement – Creating Strong External Bonds/Relationships (kerwynhodge.wordpress.com)
- In Closing, Always Take the Lead (kerwynhodge.wordpress.com)
- To Have More Success, Help More People (kerwynhodge.wordpress.com)
- 10 Surprising Stats About Great Customer Experience | Customer Service in the Cloud (rosettacarringtonlue.com)
- Five benefits from focusing on Customer Experience (donnovansimon.wordpress.com)
- The Transformation of Customer Service (mpiworldclass.com)
- What A Customer Experience Management Professional Does (business2community.com)
- Infographic: Why social customer service can’t be ignored (rosettacarringtonlue.com)
- Random vs Planned Customer Service Experience (business2community.com)